Each week throughout the season, I’ll cover at least two rookies in the Rookie Report Card and try to always include the biggest performers from that particular week. On top of reviewing my expectations for each player coming into the league and how well he’s lived up to those expectations at the NFL level to this point, I’ll grade the player in three categories. Those categories are performance to date, rookie season potential and long-term upside.
Garrett Wilson, WR NYJ
Week two Stats: eight receptions, 102 yards, two touchdowns (14 targets), one carry, -2 rushing yards
Those who watched a lot of Ohio State football over the last few seasons saw Wilson improve dramatically from year to year. Although he was productive as a freshman in 2019, catching 30 passes for 432 yards and five touchdowns, it was clear he was playing on raw speed and athleticism as well as counting on the coaching staff to scheme him open. His routes were not sharp, he dropped passes and he wasn’t developed enough physically to take on contact at the line of scrimmage or at the catch point. Despite that all, however, his potential was evident.
Over his next two seasons, he matured greatly. Wilson became an elite run-after-catch playmaker, showing off incredible speed and the awareness of a running back to take the most efficient route to the end zone. His ability to make contested catches also improved dramatically as he became one of the top contested catch receivers in college football. Although his route running was still a work in progress and he still struggles to get immediate separation at the line of scrimmage despite his explosiveness, it was no surprise he was seen by many as the receiver with the highest upside in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Most wideouts selected in the top-ten of the NFL Draft, as Wilson was, become top two-to-three picks in dynasty rookie drafts but that wasn’t the case with Wilson. Perhaps partially due to the rawness in his game but most likely it was the landing spot that kept him from being one of the premiere prospects to dynasty managers this season.
Wilson typically went between picks four and eight in rookie drafts throughout the summer but an up and down training camp that featured highlight reel catches followed by drops as well as the rookie playing behind Braxton Berrios and even Jeff Smith pushed him down as far as ninth or tenth overall in late August rookie drafts.
What. A. Bargain.
Through two weeks, Wilson leads the Jets in targets (22), receptions (12) and touchdown catches (2) despite being fourth on the team in snaps (80). His 39.2 fantasy points in PPR have him as the WR12 and he already has people calling him the WR1 in New York over Elijah Moore. Dynasty managers wondering if he could be a WR1 in fantasy.
There are a lot of factors at play when considering Wilson’s upside. He’s shown big-play ability already in limited chances which gives fuel to those that feel he could be even better with more playing time and targets. The problem is that the passing volume of the Jets’ offense over the first two weeks is unlikely to hold up for an entire season and the return of Zach Wilson creates another unknown for at least his short-term upside.
No matter your stance on Wilson coming into the draft process, he’s shown that his speed and playmaking ability will translate to playing on Sundays. I’m still convinced Moore will have his say in who the alpha receiver in New York is but it’s difficult to ignore the massive upside that Wilson possesses.
Already knocking on the door of becoming a WR1 in dynasty, Wilson would be a clear top-two pick in rookie drafts today if we could redo them. Already nearly impossible to trade for in most leagues, you need to make an offer immediately if want a chance at him on the trade market. After watching the start to his career, I’d be willing to deal ageing superstars like Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs or Tyreek Hill straight up for him. Running backs like Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler and Alvin Kamara are also strong trade chips if you want to pry him away.
Daniel Bellinger, TE NYG
Week two Stats: one reception, 16 yards, one touchdown (one target)
While preparing for the NFL Draft late last winter, I spent a lot of time watching tight end prospects but few caught my eye. It didn’t take long watching Bellinger in college to realize he’s unlikely to be a future top-15 tight end in dynasty.
Like many of his draft counterparts, Bellinger is a traditional Y tight end who profiles as an in-line blocker with enough athleticism to be a possession receiver in the middle of the field. Unfortunately, however, he didn’t show in college that he could be a seam stretcher or threat in the red zone so his fantasy upside appeared to be capped. Despite his underneath route running and solid ball skills, he wasn’t a player I would consider in the top-36 picks in a rookie draft entering the NFL draft.
Selected as the sixth tight end off the board, he went early in the fourth round to the Giants who had a big need at the position. A nice landing spot considering the Giants and head coach Brian Daboll were preparing to install the offense he was bringing from Buffalo. One that featured Dawson Knox in the spot Bellinger was drafted to play. Despite posting relatively unimpressive numbers, catching just 68 passes for 771 yards and five touchdowns in his four seasons at San Diego State, the opportunity to play right away in an offense with a history of using players with his skill set made him a fourth-round dart throw in rookie drafts over the summer.
Since joining New York, Bellinger received glowing reports from beat reporters and the coaching staff throughout OTAs and training camp. He beat out Ricky Seals-Jones to win the starting job out of camp and so far as a rookie, has played 54% of snaps through two games. That playing time has only translated into one target, however.
That target went for a 16-yard touchdown in week two. Bellinger was wide open in the flat and raced to the end zone on the play.
At this point, Bellinger is nothing more than a long-term stash. With concerns over his ability to get downfield, I find it unlikely he’s ever a weekly fantasy starter at the position. But if he picks things up quickly and proves he can get open underneath and at the goal line, his ultimate upside lies somewhere in the Austin Hooper range.
Zander Horvath, FB LAC
Week two Stats: one reception, one yard, one touchdown (two targets)
When Horvath scored in week one, I heard the announcer say his name as he crossed the goal line and I thought to myself, “I know who that is! He went to Purdue.”
Outside of that, the only other thing I knew about the former Boilermaker is that he’s a traditional fullback. So clearly, he won’t be fantasy-relevant, right?
Horvath is doing everything he can to burst into relevancy but honestly, he’s just vulturing touchdowns from the Chargers we are rostering. Currently the RB38 in PPR leagues thanks to two touchdown receptions, dynasty managers may see his name on waiver wires while sorting free agents by fantasy score. Even in the deepest leagues, however, it’s wise to look elsewhere.
Although Horvath caught 68 passes for 592 yards in his four seasons on campus at Purdue, he’ll never get a big enough workload to belong on dynasty rosters. Nevertheless, he gets a solid C-minus on his dynasty rookie report card for finding the end zone in each of his first two games – something few rookies do.
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